The countdown to the regular season has started in full force. You know how I know that? ESPN's NFL Power Rankings for Week 1 will be released later today. I'm happy to say that I am among the voters in this year's rankings. That doesn't mean I will forget my other duties, like starting each day with your AFC North Wake-up Call ...
BENGALS: According to the Bengals' official website, it looks as if Robert Geathers, and not Carlos Dunlap, will start at defensive end on Monday night when the Bengals play at the Ravens. That's a big break for the Ravens. Dunlap, who was the best defensive player I watched in training camp this year, remains sidelined with a knee injury. Geathers appears ready to go now after being out since his arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 2. "If last week were a regular-season week, Robert would have played and practiced, but it wasn’t," coach Marvin Lewis said.
BROWNS: Team president Mike Holmgren hopes to finish out his contract, which expires after the 2014 season. "I've never quit anything in my life," he said. Change at president, however, seems inevitable. New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who will take control of the Browns after a league vote in October, will want to put his own person in charge whether it's Joe Banner or someone else. Randy Lerner needed a spokesman for the franchise. Haslam presumably won't. In other news, running back Trent Richardson was back practicing Monday in preparation for the season opener against the Eagles. "If he's ready to go, he will be our starter," Shurmur said. Richardson might start, but the Browns won't give him a full workload.
RAVENS: Physical safety Bernard Pollard has a message for Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. "When we see receivers coming across the middle, and we're in the right defense, we're going to smack you," Pollard said, via CBS Sports. The Ravens shouldn't worry about Green coming across the middle. They should be more concerned about Green running past them down the field. His 11 catches of 35 yards or more were the most in the league last year and the most by an NFL rookie since Minnesota’s Randy Moss had 14 in 1998.
STEELERS: Mike Wallace went over the playbook with wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery on Friday and Saturday, and it showed Monday. In his first practice with the team in nearly eight months, Wallace impressed at least one person with how he did in Todd Haley's new offense. "I surprised myself by how good I did as far as the plays," Wallace told the Steelers' official website. "I have been studying it. I have a good grasp of it. It’s just running the plays off of it. I am getting there. I like where I am at." What helps Wallace is that he is dealing with a new playbook, not a new quarterback. That's a bigger adjustment for a wide receiver.